When we think of anti-cancer treatment we often think about chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries. What we don’t think about is exercise….
Over the last few years, researchers have been working overtime to better understand the role exercise can play when used in addition to traditional treatments such as chemo. The biggest and most important thing they’ve found is, engaging in regular exercise throughout treatment can increase a patient’s chance of survival.
“I thought people with cancer are better off resting in bed?”
False, it is better for them to keep a regular exercise routine up and here is why:
- It can prevent the body de-conditioning which means the patient is able to maintain more muscle mass, better heart function, and bone health- this can allow the patient to tolerate higher and more frequent doses of treatment
- Reduces the risk of developing side effects such as heart problems, blood deficiencies and nerve damage that may lead to treatment being ceased
- Reduces cancer-related fatigue which can allow the patient to maintain better quality of life throughout treatment
- Reduces recovery time for cancer-related surgeries, less time on the couch and more time to get on with life
Did you know: Cancer tumours have limited vascularity; this means the amount of blood that flows through a tumour is less than what would get pumped through our other organs and tissues. Regular exercise however, increases the vascularity of the tumour. For people who are receiving chemotherapy, this means more of the chemo drug is pumped through the tumour itself killing more of the tumour cells.
Is there a type of exercise that works best?
General guidelines recommend:
Aerobic: 150 minutes of moderate intensity per week, this might look like a 20 minute walk every day. Intensity should be high enough so you can talk but not sing.
Strength: Two to three days per week, sessions don’t need to be longer than 45-minutes, can be done at home or at a gym and should target large muscle groups across the whole body.
Flexibility: Stretching should be done daily to prevent stiffness and maintain muscle function.
Balance: It’s recommended that balance activities are completed daily however 10-15 minutes is efficient at improving or maintaining mobility throughout treatment